Ireland will travel to France on Wednesday night knowing their World Cup hopes hang by a fingernail. Yet they can pull off a huge upset.
They need to score at least one goal and keep the French from scoring to push the game into extra time and possibly a penalty shoot out.
It is a tall order for a side that has difficulty scoring at the best of times and that was clearly outclassed in many respects in the first leg.
As against that Ireland have scored away against Italy, the World Cup champions in their World Cup campaign and certainly they have proven very difficult to score against.
Despite their second half dominance, the French got away with a lucky goal from Anelka when his shot was deflected past Shay Given by an unlucky Sean St. Ledger.
Giovanni Trapattoni certainly made it clear in his after match comments that he does not expect this Irish side to play any differently in Paris.
Given the vitriol hurled at Irish players by the French side there will be no shortage of motivation for Ireland in this clash
While some pundits are urging an all out attack, Trapattoni will show the same cautious streak that got Ireland to the playoffs, defending hard against the French and hoping for a breakaway goal which Ireland narrowly missed on two occasions against the French in Dublin. It is still a mystery how Liam Lawrence did not score in the first half with an open goal in front of him.
If Ireland were to score first the pressure suddenly shifts dramatically on a French side that clearly has internal problems. Manager Raymond Domenech is deeply unpopular in the dressing room and the press room and it was noticeable after the Irish game that the French players were spare in their praise or support for their manager.
So expect Ireland to play cagily, hoping to absorb the French attackers who showed no great clinical finishing skills in Dublin and score one on a breakaway.
If Ireland scores first then the pressure would really mount on the French. If the French score first then it is goodbye, South Africa as Ireland would have to score twice to defeat them – a very unlikely scenario.
Trapattoni is unlikely to make any changes with the only possibility that McGeady could start instead of Lawrence on the right wing. McGeady has the flair going forward but it not as accomplished a ball winner and work horse as Lawrence.
Ireland should have beaten world champions Italy both at home and away and should not fear the French even in the cauldron of Paris. They can sneak it with an early goal.